10 U.S. Cities with Amazing Beaches to Recharge in Right Now
There’s plenty to do when the sun goes down, too.
Were your work-from-Turks-and-Caicos dreams dashed for this summer? Never fear: If you can’t spend the day attending virtual meetings from Caribbean white sands, we’ve found the next best thing: 10 U.S. destinations that boast gorgeous beaches all within city limits. So, whether you’re looking for a Midwest mid-week reset, or a weeklong sojourn in Southern California, we’ve got you. Plus, if you get tired of snoozing on the beach (ha), all of these picks boast fantastic restaurants, bustling nightlife, and plenty of outdoor pursuits. Read on to discover cities with amazing beaches that are perfect for relaxing, renewing, and recharging.
Perhaps this Midwest city isn’t the first that comes to mind when you imagine U.S. beach destinations, but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. Chicago has an impressive 26 miles of waterfront on Lake Michigan, plus more than two dozen free beaches. Visitors can do everything from sunbathing to more active pursuits like jet skiing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Some of our favorites include Oak Street Beach on the Gold Coast for its beautiful views of the city skyline, the bustling North Avenue Beach, and newer spot Oakwood Beach. Book your stay at a lakefront hotel, like W Chicago Lakeshore, for the best of beach front vibes and cosmopolitan amenities.
San Diego, California
There’s perhaps no American city more closely associated with beaches, surf, and sunshine than this Southern California spot. Visitors here are spoiled for choice, where you’re looking for scenic, oceanside hikes at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve or tackling the waves at Cardiff State Beach, one of the most popular surfing spots in town. And, with 70 miles of coastline, you could pick a different spot for every day of your vacation and still not see them all. If daytime beach trips aren’t enough, bed down for the night at Hotel Del Coronado, where you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves outside your door.
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New York, New York
While many visitors to New York are there for Broadway, world-famous art museums, and nightlife, the Big Apple is also home to many beaches within city limits. Whether you’re in the mood for old-school, beachside amusement parks like those at Coney Island, or the surfers’ paradise of The Rockaways, the city’s beaches are as diverse as its population. And if crowds aren’t your thing, there are actually still spots that aren’t mobbed during summer weekends: check out Fort Tilden Beach and Robert Moses State Park for a chiller vibe. For those looking for a hotel with a true beachy feel, skip Manhattan for The Rockaway Hotel, located just steps from Rockaway Beach.
Los Angeles, California
If LA were a person, it would be your friend that has all the luck. Beautiful, personable, and always up for a good time, the City of Angels is not lacking in charm. On top of all its stellar restaurants, gorgeous hiking, and Hollywood glamour, it’s also home to some of the country’s best beaches. There are bustling spots like Venice Beach and its famed boardwalk, secluded and elegant areas like Carbon Beach in Malibu, or iconic locales made famous in TV and movies like Santa Monica State Beach and Laguna Beach. For the ultimate surfside experience, book a room at the fabled Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, where you can overlook the waves from your private balcony.
Honolulu is a bit of a Goldilocks city: not only do you have some of the world’s best beaches right outside your door, but there are also coveted amenities of city living, like superb restaurants, swanky hotels, and fascinating museums. Most famed for good reason is Waikiki Beach, located in the heart of the city on its south shore. Once the redoubt of Hawaiian royalty, it’s no wonder visitors from across the globe flock here every year for the calm waters and postcard-perfect views. We also love nearby Ala Moana Regional Park, where you can picnic before snorkeling in gentle, reef-protected waters. And, while you have your pick of oceanfront hotels in the city, one of our favorites is buzzy Halepuna, the first luxury boutique hotel in the middle of Waikiki.
It would be next to impossible to go to Miami and not spend most of your time on one of the city’s gorgeous stretches of beach. With 35 miles of nearly perfect sandy shores, there is a beach for every type of traveler, whether you’re looking to chill out with a book or experience that famed Miami nightlife before the sun sets. The most famous stretch is certainly the white sands of South Beach, where the majority of chic hotels, restaurants, and clubs are located. But if people-watching isn’t your thing, head to calmer spots like Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, or Sunny Isles Beach in the northern part of the city. There are, of course, many oceanfront hotels here, but the historic, yet uber-chic vibe of the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is in a league of its own.
Charleston, South Carolina
If you can tear yourself away from the fascinating historical monuments, stellar Southern food, and charming hotels of downtown Charleston, some of the South’s best beaches await you. There’s Folly Beach, sometimes known as “The Edge of America,” with its stunning ocean views; Sullivan’s Island’s charming restaurants and kiteboarding; or Kiawah Island, with its 10 miles of beach, maritime forests, and sea turtles. If you’re looking for a beachfront hotel, the most famous in the area is Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which, other than its eponymous golf course, also has surf lessons, paddle boarding, and can even help guests throw a private beach party.
If you want quintessential picturesque New England beaches and some of the most innovative restaurants on the East Coast, you must go to Portland. Popular waterfront spots here include the easily accessible Willard Beach, where you can sit on the shore and watch boat traffic pass by; wide Pine Point Beach, which is popular with kite surfers; and Scarborough Beach State Park, one of the area’s best spots for surfing. A favorite seaside hotel in the area is Black Point Inn in Prouts Neck. The renovated beachfront property has been operating since 1878 and exudes “downeast” charm.
San Francisco, California
Southern California may get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to beaches, but it is a huge mistake to overlook the state’s northern coastline. After all, how many beaches can claim ’gram-worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge? Perhaps the most famed is Baker Beach, located inside Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Besides the views, it also has a section reserved for the clothing-optional among us (but hey, this is San Francisco, so be prepared to bundle up from the chill at a moment’s notice). Other favorite spots include Ocean Beach for surfing; the peaceful, unhurried vibe at Mountain Lake Beach; and the warmer waters and lively atmosphere at Crissy Field. When it comes to lodging, Cavallo Point is one of the closest to the bridge itself, making it an ideal jumping off point for waterfront activities.
It’s hard to think of an island more synonymous with soothing waves and gorgeous shoreline than Maui. If you’re there, you’re probably road tripping all over the island to find the best surf and softest sand. But, if you need a home base, make it the Lahaina area. This region on the west of the island has some of the sunniest weather, spectacular sunsets over the water, and generally uncrowded beaches. Some of the most famed nearby include the three-mile stretch of clear waters at Ka’anapali Beach; Kapalua Beach, which is known for its calm surf and superb snorkeling; and Napili Beach, whose green sea turtles are always a welcome sight. We recommend booking a stay at Montage Kapalua Bay, a stunning resort with 24 acres on Namalu Bay, using PayPal and Expedia so you can focus on relaxing, not stressing.